‘Haven’t seen anything like it’: Nets save fruit trees from freak Hawke’s Bay hail storm

A cherry grower in Hastings took this picture after the short hail burst. Photo / Supplied

Hawke’s Bay is in for heavy rain of up to 100mm barely 48 hours after a hail storm that a Hastings cherry grower reckons was the worst he has seen in 20 years.

A MetService heavy rain warning updated on Thursday afternoon said 80 to 100mm of rain could be expected to accumulate “about the ranges” in the 17 hours from 8pm, with 40-70mm forecast for coastal area, with peaks of 10-15mm per hour.

It was predicted to be widespread from Wairoa to Central Hawke’s Bay, relatively short lived, with intense, heavy rainfall in the early hours of Friday.

The heavy rain was also expected further north in the Gisborne-Tairawhiti region, with flooding, slips and other problems expected.

The freak hail storm on Wednesday afternoon only lasted about 15 minutesbut left behind piles of hail on properties including orchards.

Parts of rural Hastings and Havelock North were among the worst areas impacted.

A cherry grower from Longlands in Hastings, who did not want to be named, shared a photo on social media of hail bulging protective nets over his crops.

He told Hawke’s Bay Today he had been a grower in the region for 20 years.

Hail pelted the region on Wednesday afternoon, causing bulging protective nets. Photo / Supplied
Hail pelted the region on Wednesday afternoon, causing bulging protective nets. Photo / Supplied

“I haven’t seen anything like it since being here,” he said.

He was out fixing his nets on Thursday after the downpour and said he had to cut holes in the netting to relieve pressure, after two large posts broke under the weight.

Smaller piles of hail were still settled on the ground at the cherry farm as of late Thursday morning.

Fortunately, cherries generally grow later in the year, and are then picked in time for Christmas.

Following the freak hail storm, Hawke’s Bay Fruitgrowers president Brydon Nisbet said it would be “days” before full assessments could be made of the damage caused.

Hail on a Bridge Pa roadside, near Hastings, on Wednesday. Photo / Warren Buckland
Hail on a Bridge Pa roadside, near Hastings, on Wednesday. Photo / Warren Buckland

He said anything in flower or tight clusters could be damaged if it was in the path of the hail, but added: “If it was a month later it could be much worse. It’s something as growers we have to put up with”.

Three insurance companies, AMI, State and NZI, confirmed they had not received any claims as yet regarding damage from the hail storm.

Lightning also Lashed parts of Hawke’s Bay further south on Wednesday, including centres such as Dannevirke.

One man was injured after lightning struck a tree he was under along the main road through Dannevirke.

At 5pm on Thursday there were no Civil Defence warnings in force, but the Central Hawke’s Bay District Council was urging residents to remain vigilant.

The rural roading network in many parts of the region has been hammered by an unrelenting series of heavy rainfalls throughout the region this year, leaving a repair job costing over $25 million in the Wairoa district alone.

The CHB council says strong winds and earthquake tremors over the past three months have also contributed to issues in its area.

A statement said: “There is great concern that existing major damage across the roading networks will dramatically worsen with the forecast weather”.

It said there were already 35 major slips across on its roads and the ground is at saturation point.

Earlier this month, a freak frost hit Hawke’s Bay growers hard, putting stone fruit and early varieties of grapes at high risk for those without frost protection.

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